The Jersey Shore Warriors is an example of what’s right in AAU basketball


GALLOWAY, N.J. — AAU basketball has a stigma.

Whether or not it’s deserved is a different argument for a different day, but the fact of the matter is that the prevailing school of thought is that AAU basketball and the grassroots, shoe company culture is what has ruined the American game.

Competitiveness and winning at all costs is sacrificed for exposure and individual success. Team play and the beauty of running an offense goes by the wayside as the ‘do him’ mentality takes over. Shot selection is a thing of the past. Fundamentals a distant memory.

That’s what the critics will tell you.

But at it’s heart, AAU basketball is a good thing. It’s a chance to earn a scholarship. It’s a chance to test yourself against the best players in the country, not just the best players in your city. Exposure certainly is anything but a negative.

Few teams break the mold of the AAU stereotype like the Jersey Shore Warriors.

Tony Sagona has been running the program for 35 years. Matt Carroll and Troy Murphy can both be counted as alums. Former Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney and incoming Notre Dame freshman Stephen Visturia are both products of the Warriors. Heading into Elevate Hoops’ Live in AC tournament, the Warriors had won their last three AAU tournaments as well.

They’re not part of the EYBL. They’re not sponsored by Adidas or Under Armour. But they send players to college. Some of those guys have made the NBA.

And most importantly, they do it all while winning basketball games.

“I don’t think it’s bad,” Sagona said of AAU basketball, “I just think you get so much talent on one court. Kids don’t want to buy into the unselfish. You stack a team with all all-americans. The sponsored teams are what creates the problem. They lose value when they play for sneakers and shirts. They forget what they’re there for.”

Sagona says the key top the success of his program is that they target a specific kind of player. “He knows how to play, has a good mentality,” he said. “We get a few athletes, very unselfish. We practice that way. The competitiveness, we drill it in.”

“With the reputation that we have, they come to us.”

Dominique Uhl is the perfect example. A 6-foot-8 German transplant, Uhl is an athletic forward with developing ball skills. He can hit a three and he can handle the ball pretty well for a guy his size, but he needs to add weight and strength to get more comfortable playing against stronger front court players at the next level. A three star recruit according to Rivals, Uhl’s recruitment is gaining momentum, as Maryland, Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State, Temple and St. Joe’s have all offered him.

How did Uhl wind up with the Warriors on the AAU circuit?

“I tried out with the New Jersey Playaz before, but I didn’t like the style,” Uhl said. He fit in much better with the Warriors, who base their system around playing smart basketball: running an offense, spreading the floor, making the right pass.

For Sagona, it’s less being a coach than it is being a general manager, bringing in the right players and the right pieces without upsetting the team’s chemistry.

“They already know how to play,” he said. “We manage timeouts, substitute, yell at them a little bit.”

It’s working.

There are at least four Division I players on the roster, with Ivy League and Patriot League programs lining the sidelines every time the Warriors take the floor.

In general, AAU basketball’s reputation is much worse than the truth of its existence.

But even if you believe the worst, spending an hour watching the Warriors will change your perception.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

Leave a comment

No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

Leave a comment

Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 2.46.14 PM

A Wichita State spokesman told NBCSports.com that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.